With many of WDIY's members and listeners being involved in the arts as freelancers, or gig workers, we are sharing this message from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) on how the "CARES" Act, which was recently passed by congress, will provide financial relief.
In its latest response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, Congress has passed a third package of emergency relief legislation, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security “CARES” Act. This bill will provide tangible and immediate economic relief for entertainment workers across the United States, many of whom found themselves out of work overnight due to COVID-19 related cancellations across all sectors of the entertainment industry.
Entertainment freelance, or gig, workers who expected to work for a day, week, month, or season on a production are now without planned wages and benefits indefinitely. Current state unemployment insurance benefits tend to be insufficient for entertainment workers, and many are not eligible for the paid leave expansion in the newly passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act because of the unique nature of freelance work.
IATSE members and allies sent over 106,000 letters to Congress urging lawmakers to include displaced entertainment workers in the next legislative relief package, and our voices were heard. IATSE commends Congress for expanding access to economic support for loss of work related to COVID-19.
The CARES Act contains the following key provisions:
- Creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. This includes entertainment workers with limited work history and scheduled, or offered, work that did not commence.
- Provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance recipient for up to four months.
- Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment are no longer available.
- Provides one-time recovery checks of $1,200 for all individuals with adjusted gross income up to $75,000; $112,500 for head of household. All married couples, with adjusted gross income up to $150,000 who file a joint return, are eligible for $2,400. Those amounts increase by $500 for every child. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $136,500 for head of household filers, and $198,000 for joint filers.
- Waives the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes.
Entertainment workers will now receive economic support to help make up for the income lost due to cancelled or postponed work, and that money will soon be in the hands of working families.
However, our work is not done – the crisis continues and so does the fight. The IATSE remains focused on ensuring that subsequent COVID-19 relief legislation includes pension relief, access to affordable healthcare, economic support for the entertainment industry to put people back to work, and increased federal arts funding to assist arts nonprofits and other employers in financing projects and performances. We also stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and kin on the front lines of this coronavirus pandemic and call for increased safety and protections as they seek to help others.
We look forward to the day when entertainment workers can start helping the country heal, but we must first mitigate this public health crisis and ensure we sustain working people until they can safely return to work.
As you know, the entertainment industry is experiencing an unprecedented increase in unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the CARES Act passed by congress last week will provide $260 billion in enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance (UI) to thousands of entertainment workers throughout the country who are being furloughed, laid off, or finding themselves without work through no fault of their own. There are a number of resources (listed below) that can help you navigate UI or the benefits provided by the CARES Act, but the first and foremost should be your state’s unemployment office website, as most of the COVID-19 economic relief funding will be distributed through state UI programs.
- Links to each state’s unemployment office website(s)
- National Employment Law Project fact sheet on who qualifies for CARES Act aid
- Helpful graphic provided by the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees on navigating COVID-19 UI
Please keep in mind that as the unemployment rate continues to increase, many state unemployment offices may be overwhelmed by the influx in applications. This makes it even more crucial that individuals start the process as early as possible and be persistent even if phone lines and online forms are malfunctioning.